Whitehorse Daily Star

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PRESSING ON – Number 23 Connor Cooper of the Chance Oil Yukon Rivermen maintains control of the puck during last weekend’s three-game home series against Kelowna, B.C. Inset Martin Lawrie

Rivermen coach pleased with bantam club’s development

Head coach Martin Lawrie of the Tier 1 Yukon Rivermen likes what he’s seeing in his bantam squad.

By Chuck Tobin on February 7, 2018

Head coach Martin Lawrie of the Tier 1 Yukon Rivermen likes what he’s seeing in his bantam squad.

They dropped the weekend series to the Central Zone Rockets of Kelowna, B.C. two games to one but the club continues to gel and mature in their play, Lawrie said in an interview Tuesday.

He said the goal from the beginning of the year was to be competitive, and to be a better team by the end of the season.

“I think we are well on our way to accomplishing that,” Lawrie said. “If we finish in the middle of the pack, I think that will be quite an accomplishment for the season.”

The Chance Oil Rivermen defeated the Rockets 3-2 in the weekend opener Friday night. They were outgunned 6-1 Saturday and dropped the rubber match Sunday by a score of 5-3.

Lawrie said they lost Errol Ekholm, one of their top forwards, in Friday’s game to injury, possibly a broken wrist.

“Then early Saturday, we lost Ashtyn Underhill, our captain with a broken collar bone.

“We kind of got put back on our heals and didn’t recover when they scored on us.”

Lawrie, however, said the Rivermen are coming into their own.

The top forwards are playing with greater confidence than they did in their first exhibition series back in September down in Edmonton, he said.

The head coach said you can see the same positive development in their third and fourth line forwards.

“I think this experience is going to do them wonders going into next season.”

Over the weekend, they were able to roll all four lines and all four lines competed, he said.

“Everybody stepped up, for sure.”

In their home series the weekend before, the Rivermen came away with four points after defeating the North Okanagan Zone Kings in the opening game and then tying the second and third game.

The Rivermen will head down to Abbottsford for a tournament this weekend and then will be off to Kamloops for three league games the weekend of Feb. 23.

The final league series will be at home on the weekend of March 2 against the East Kootney Ice.

B.C. Amateur Hockey doesn’t have a playoff format for the Bantam Tier 1 Zone Program. Of the seven teams in the league, four including the Rivermen will have automatic berths into the Tier 1 B.C. provincial championships in late March because there are no other Tier 1 teams in their zone.

Lawrie said the club’s inaugural season is proving to be a success, and bodes well for next season.

Chance Oil has been a great sponsor, and other businesses in town have brought forward a tonne of support as well, he said.

Air North, Lawrie pointed out, has provided great airfares for visiting teams, Driving Force has done the same for vehicle rentals and Northern Vision Development has given the clubs and their entourages a deal on hotel rooms.

Lawrie noted when teams come to town, it’s with a lot of family members in tow, family members who take advantage of local opportunities like visiting the Takhini Hot Springs and going dogsledding.

“It’s been all hands on deck to make it happen, but it’s been very positive,” said the head coach.

Next year, he said, there’ll be an eighth team added to the league, another team to introduce to Whitehorse and the Yukon.

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